The Institute for Public Policy is a Bishkek-based independent organization that was founded in April 2005. It aims at promoting formation of a practice of public policy and development of mechanisms of constructive interaction between state institutions, civil society, mass media and businesses.
Murat Ukushov about the parliamentary regime in Kyrgyzstan
"I consider it necessary to remind the "players", raising a question of dissolving the current Parliament, that every new Parliament is usually worse than all previous ones”, said Murat Ukushov, an expert in Constitutional Law, in an article written exclusively for the Institute for Public Policy.
Instead of preface
In August 1989, Professor Leonid Levitin introduced the author of this article, who recently graduated from the law department of the Kyrgyz State University, to a people's deputy of the Kirghiz SSR and USSR Tolomush Okeyev, who needed a legal assistant. Since then my professional biography is directly or indirectly related to legislative activities of the Kyrgyz Parliament, including as a presidential envoy to the Jogorku Kenesh. Accordingly, I have had an opportunity to observe, and not only observe, all the ups and downs of parliamentary development.
Given the public debate unfolding today on the parliamentary form of government, on role of the Jogorku Kenesh at the present stage of nation-building, I consider it necessary to draw the attention of readers, including members of the Parliament, public and political figures, to some aspects of the formation and development of the national parliamentary system.
In the second half of the 20th century, a general concept of "parliamentarism" emerged, which refers to a system of political organization with a clear differentiation of functions of the legislative and executive powers and with the privileged position of the Parliament as a representative body of the people’s will. This concept is quite large. On the one hand, it reflects the position of the Parliament in the mechanism of separation of powers; on the other hand, it reflects the principles of operation of the Parliament and relationships with other government agencies.
The terms "parliament" and "parliamentarism" are often equated. In fact, the presence of the Parliament in the system of state power does not mean the existence in the State of parliamentarism in the country. For example, during the more than half-century existence in the Kirghiz SSR of a representative body, i.e. the Supreme Council, the country's parliamentary system had not established itself as the real power in the hands of the republican party organization of the CPSU. Laws were created by the party organs and the Supreme Council Presidium, and were formally approved during the plenary meetings of the Supreme Council, which at best, took place twice a year.
Parliamentarism exists when a country has a multiparty political system, and the Parliament can not only pass laws, but also has the authority to control the execution of these laws, to form the government and other state agencies and oversee the activities of the government. As you know, the essence of democracy lies in the fact that society members may have and, as a rule, do have different views on virtually every major social problem, and all sectors of society, representing different views, participate in dealing with important issues. Based on the principles of openness and freedom, parliamentarism creates an opportunity to take legislative action according to the will of the majority without compromising the rights of minorities.
The legendary Parliament
The formation of parliamentarism in Kyrgyzstan has been difficult, and, in fact, we are only at the initial stage of its development. A large role in this process was played at the dawn of independence by the Supreme Council of the Kirghiz SSR, of the twelfth convocation (since May 1993 – the Jogorku Kenesh of the Kyrgyz Republic), which worked from April 1990 to September 1994. Elected under the laws of the late Soviet period, it incorporated many of the contradictions of that time but managed to make a lot of crucial decisions that laid the legal basis of the functioning of Kyrgyzstan as a sovereign state and introduced the principles of parliamentarism in public administration. It remained in our history as a "legendary Parliament".
Probably, for the first and last time this legislative body gathered 350 representatives of the people of Kyrgyzstan, starting from ordinary shepherds, milkmaids and workers who glorified themselves in the socialist competitions to the elite of the then party, economic, scientific and creative intelligentsia. It should be noted that future prime ministers T.Chyngyshev, A.Jumagulov, A.Muraliev, F.Kulov, Speakers of the Jogorku Kenesh M. Sherimkulov, A.Erkebaev, O. Tekebayev, politicians M. Abdyldaev (currently an MP), K. Akmatov, B. Aamatov, C.Baekova, J. Saadanbekov and many others cut their political teeth in the "legendary" Parliament.
Already during the first session, held on April 10-15, 1990, members of the legendary parliament made decisive steps toward political pluralism. Today, many people find it difficult to understand what it was like. The whole country was watching the telecast of the meetings that continued even after midnight. And it was worth seeing and hearing it! Those days have shown that there were sober-minded and independent members of the Parliament whom we would today call the opposition. Despite their small number, they were able to take initiative in their hands and influenced the course of the first and subsequent sessions, and were more powerful and persuasive than the so-called "aggressively obedient majority."
One of the major issues on the agenda of the first session of the Supreme Council of the twelfth convocation was the question "On changes and amendments to the Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Kirghiz SSR (on the proposals of the Communist Party Committee of the Kirghiz SSR on Articles 6 and 7 and on other articles of the Constitution of the Kirghiz SSR)."
I remind you that Article 6 of the then Constitution of the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic in 1978 confirmed that the leading and guiding force of the Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system, government and public organizations, was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. According to the results of hot debate on April 12, 1990, The Supreme Council approved a new version of this norm, which put an end to the Communist Party's undivided monopoly on power: "The Communist Party of the Kirghiz SSR, trade unions, Komsomol and other socio-political and other public organizations and mass movements through their representatives elected to the Soviets of People's Deputies participate in the development of public policy and management of public affairs".
Six months later, on October 24, 1990, an extraordinary second session of the Supreme Council decided to establish the institution of the President of the Republic and included a question concerning the draft of the Declaration of State Sovereignty into agenda. The Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, adopted during the third session of the Supreme Council on December 15, 1990, opened a new chapter in the history of the country. Kyrgyzstan began to build itself as a sovereign democratic state. Moreover, the Supreme Council not only announced sovereignty after the Baltic republics and Russia did it, but also rejected the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, removing from the title of the republic the term "Soviet Socialist".
A specific feature of the Declaration was consolidation of the principles of a legal state: supremacy of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic on its territory, implementation of the state power based on the separation of legislative, executive and judicial branches and implementation of political life on the basis of ideological pluralism.
In the years of 1991-1994, "the legendary Parliament" made the following decisions crucial to Kyrgyz statehood: the Declaration of Independence and the Resolution on the ban of the Communist Party as a ruling force and nationalization of its property (August 31, 1991), a new Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic (May 5, 1993); introduction of the national currency (May 3, 1993), adoption of state symbols of Kyrgyzstan: the national emblem (January 14, 1994), the anthem (December 18, 1992) and the flag (3 March 1992).
Meanwhile, in the autumn of 1991, the authorities of the young independent state faced the acute problems of determining a strategy for socio-economic reforms and the nature of the political regime. In addition, there were struggles for the portfolios and "warm seats" in the upper and middle echelons of power and political intrigues associated with that, creating all kinds of alliances and groups advocating different, even clan-tribalist interests. All this created a permanently tense situation in all branches of government, reduced the practical importance of their activities and inhibited essential reforms. Moreover, these negative processes unfolded against the background of increasing social and economic crisis, impoverishment of many people, the psychological shock caused by the collapse of the USSR and the Russian-speaking population leaving the country.
Reasons for dissolution of the legendary Parliament
The contradictions between the President and the government, on the one hand, and the Parliament, on the other hand, reached a high point with the adoption on May 5, 1993, of the new Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. That Constitution enshrined a system of organization of power, which in its main parameters conformed to generally accepted democratic principles of parliamentarism. During the process of adopting a new Constitution, the Jogorku Kenesh managed to "win" broad powers in making personnel decisions and monitoring the compliance with the law, which meant comprehensive control over the executive branch. The Parliament determined the main directions of domestic and foreign policy, set the stage for the introduction of a centralized system of representative bodies of local self-government, headed by the Jogorku Kenesh.
Not surprisingly, the legendary Parliament enthusiastically took up the exercise of its constitutional powers and, above all, human resources and supervisory powers. The confrontation between the President and the Government, on the one hand, and the Jogorku Kenesh, on the other hand, by early 1994, entered a decisive phase.
As a rule, hot political battles happened during regular sessions of the Jogorku Kenesh. This could be seen by studying the agenda of the sessions. During the sessions especially at the end of 1993 - spring 1994, political intrigue, warring factions, scandalous statements and documents were a normal thing, and parliamentary investigative commissions were regularly set up. An example of this was the "gun scandal" involving the supply of weapons to Tajikistan where there was a civil war at that time. Another example is the so-called "golden" scandal associated with the Swiss-Canadian company "Siabeko" headed by the notorious B. Birnshteyn.
Parliament’s attempts to implement control functions led to the dissolution of the legendary Parliament. In the summer of 1994 a parliamentary crisis broke out, which ended in early September with the so-called "voluntary dissolution" of the Jogorku Kenesh. It should be noted that during the period of 1992-1995, a struggle for power between the executive and legislative branches took place all over the CIS, and Russia was the most active country in this sense. The power struggle between Yeltsin and the Supreme Council headed by R. Khasbulatov and the Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi was particularly hard and resulted in firing from tanks at the beginning of October 1993, and the aim of firing was the building of the Russian Supreme Council.
The main reason for this confrontation between the legislative and executive branches lies in the economic sphere. In the early 1990s, the CIS countries started to implement economic reforms. They began with privatization of state-owned and collective-farm property. The possession of power and, above all, control over the privatization process implied an opportunity of having considerable financial resources.
We can assume that the victory of presidential power in Russia gave more confidence to our authorities. By the summer of 1994, there was consolidation of presidential administration and executive bodies, including a part of the parliament deputies associated with the executive branch. In early July 1994, the 15th session of the Chui oblast Kenesh by the initiative of the head of the regional state administration Felix Kulov proposed the establishment of a bicameral Parliament and amending the newly adopted Constitution. In turn, in September, the Parliament was preparing to announce materials of the parliamentary commissions on the "golden" scandal and on the participation of individual members of the Jogorku Kenesh, government members and heads of local administrations in the privatization of state property.
A regular session of the Jogorku Kenesh, scheduled for September 13, 1994, was not held due to lack of quorum: at the beginning of August, 160 MPs signed a petition to the head of the state, accusing the parliament of political intrigue, halting reform and refusing to participate in its work. The Presidium of the Jogorku Kenesh reacted by appealing to the citizens ("The people must know the truth") and categorically denied those allegations.
Deputies and members of the 17th session of the Osh Regional Kenesh supported the Jogorku Kenesh and criticized the initiative of the Chui oblast Kenesh to establish a bicameral Parliament. In their statement they noted the following: "Implementation of this proposal will lead to a complete revision of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. First, it contradicts the Constitution at its very core... and actually dissolves a professional Parliament as such. Second, a bicameral Parliament can be justified only in countries with a federal system. In this case, it is necessary to change the Constitution, proclaiming Kyrgyzstan not a unitary but a federal state. In the present context, when tribal and regional conflicts are still there, it can lead to unpredictable negative consequences... In light of the foregoing, in order to preserve peace in the country, the Osh regional Kenesh considers it necessary to categorically reject any proposals for any changes to be made in the Constitution".
The Presidium of the Federation Council of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan also supported the Jogorku Kenesh and asked a question, why they decided to get rid of the Parliament. The Presidium of the Federation Council of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan believed that questions about the dissolution of the Parliament and referendum should be resolved in accordance with the Constitution and laws.
The legendary Parliament became the focus of a struggle for power and fell victim to this struggle. The whole experience of its activities, both negative and positive, is a good lesson for the current deputies of the Jogorku Kenesh.
A decade later, the Parliament of the third convocation (March 2005 - September 2007), which also entered into a fierce battle with the President and the government, repeated the fate of the legendary Parliament. That Parliament carried out a constitutional coup, taking on November 8, 2006, a new constitution with a parliamentary form of administration! However, after losing that struggle, it was dismissed by presidential decree.
Bicameral Parliament (March 1995 - March 2005)
The central authorities did not listen to the reasonable arguments of the Osh Oblast Kenesh and trade unions. Due to the fact that the activity of the parliament was paralyzed by the lack of quorum, the President issued a decree on holding a referendum on October 22, 1994 (popular vote). According to the results, a bicameral Parliament was established consisting of a permanent Legislative Assembly (35 deputies) (provided that MPs work on a professional basis there) and the Assembly of People's Representatives (70 members) that was working in sessions and representing territorial interests. The deputies of the Assembly of People’s Representatives could combine their activities as MPs with other jobs, except for civil service positions.
Thus, it was then when the origins of regionalism and clan-tribalist attitudes in society were enshrined at the constitutional level, the consequences of which would probably affect the development of the country during many decades. It should be noted that the legendary Parliament was the last Parliament, in which citizens were elected at single mandate territorial electoral constituencies, regardless of place of birth and residence; for example, many natives of the northern region were elected in the south and vice versa. Today it is hard to imagine that this would be possible.
The bicameral Parliament existed during two consecutive convocations - from March 1995 to March 2005.
The election of deputies of the bicameral Jogorku Kenesh of the first convocation was held on 5 February 1995, although the corresponding changes in the current version of the Constitution of May 5, 1993, had not yet been made. That election was the beginning of many negative trends, which then were quickly deep-rooted in our society: the practice of bringing into the parliament "proposition” deputies, which is directly connected with providing full resistance to "opposition" candidates, as well as a massive vote-buying on the part of the candidates.
Expectations of the Presidential Administration about the so-called "tamed parliament" were not met. For example, a lot of independent deputies managed to enter the Legislative Assembly - Adakhan Madumarov, Kubatbek Baibolov, Satybaldy Jeenbekov, Dooronbek Sadyrbaev, Tursunbai Bakir uulu (now a member of the Parliament), Ishenbai Kadyrbekov, Omurbek Suvanaliev (known as the "Commissioner Cattani" in early 1990s), Omurbek Tekebayev (now an MP) and others. Informal leaders of the southern region Absamat Masaliev, Mamat Aybalaev, Usen Sadykov were elected to the Assembly of People’s Representatives, as well as the chairman of the "golden Commission of the legendary Parliament" Turdakun Usubaliev and other "uncontrollable" deputies. Actually, the first bicameral parliament "made the blood boil” of members of the Administration of the President and of the government!
I consider it necessary to remind the "players", raising a question of dissolving the current Parliament, that every new composition of the Parliament is usually worse than all previous ones. For example, in December 1993, Yeltsin, instead of the "Khasbulatov" Supreme Council, received the "Zyuganov" Parliament; President Nazarbayev had to twice dissolve the Parliament, in order to receive a “tamed” parliament.
Already on March 28, 1995, on the first day of the session of the Legislative Assembly, MPs showed their "complicated nature": when electing the Speaker, a Presidential Administration appointee M. Cholponbaev won over O. Tekebaev with a very little gap, and the "uncomfortable" A. Pronenko was elected as one of the Vice Speakers. Two months later, the Legislative Assembly again showed that it had "its own point of view" on important matters, passing on May 26, 1995, the Resolution "On the Commission on Struggle against Organized Crime and Corruption of the Legislative Assembly of Jogorku Kenesh". The commission included O. Suvanaliev (Chair), S. Jeenbekov (Vice Chairman), Baibolov K.K., Bakir uulu Tursunbai, B. Gogaev, I.Zhalilov, T. Shaylieva. It is noteworthy that later in the Parliament these kinds of standing committees (commissions) were no longer created up until December 2010, when within the structure of the current Parliament there was created a Committee on law and order, legality and struggle against corruption. But in contrast to the above-mentioned Commission, today this Committee is working "sedately and nobly."
The "stubborn nature" of the bicameral parliament was manifested in September 1995, when the agenda of both Assemblies of the Jogorku Kenesh included a question about initiative groups concerning the referendum to extend the powers of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Askar Akayev until October 2001. Having considered the matter, the Legislative Assembly of the Jogorku Kenesh in its Order of September 20, 1995, noted that "the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic, the guarantor of which is the head of state, unequivocally and clearly defined a mechanism for electing the President for a 5-year term, and the proposals of initiative groups about the referendum to extend the powers of the President of the KR are illegal". In this regard, the Legislative Assembly of the Jogorku Kenesh decided to reject proposals of initiative groups about the referendum to extend the powers of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic until October 2001, because they contradicted the Constitution and laws.
The session of the Assembly of People’s Representatives of the Jogorku Kenesh, the agenda of which contained the consideration of this matter, was scheduled for September 26, 1995. However, in connection with the known solution of the Legislative Assembly, the political situation changed dramatically. Realizing that the idea of the referendum failed, the administration of President Askar Akayev on the following day, September 21, 1995, initiated the agenda of the Legislative Assembly of the Jogorku Kenesh, which included the question of the presidential election. The Decree of 22 September 1995, of the Legislative Assembly of the Jogorku Kenesh nominated the date for the presidential election to be December 24, 1995. It should be noted that since the popular election of the President for the first time was held on October 12, 1991, accordingly, the next election should have been held in autumn 1996.
Subsequently, this experience of holding early elections through a decision of the Constitutional Court was reiterated by Bakiyev who held a presidential election in July 2009, when in fact it was supposed to be held in July 2010.
The last bright splash of political activity of the bicameral Parliament of the first convocation was recorded in November 1995: On the 21st and 22nd November, 1995, the Legislative Assembly and the Assembly of People's Representatives of the Jogorku Kenesh adopted a resolution "On the referendum (popular vote) to make changes and additions to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic on a unified judiciary system" of December 24, 1995. This referendum combined with the presidential election was supposed to resolve matters related to the unification of the Constitutional, Supreme and Supreme Arbitration Courts into a single Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic to reduce costs for their upkeep and maintenance of effective judicial protection system.
But the President’s Administration and the government did not allow this referendum, because they feared that the referendum would distract people from the presidential election, where Masaliyev A. and M. Sherimkulov opposed the incumbent President Akayev, and the unified judicial power with such an unpredictable legislative branch, at that time was inappropriate. Therefore, the resolution of the Constitutional Court of 22 December 1995, which had considered the idea of the Chui oblast Kenesh of December 12, 1995 (again this local Kenesh was at the forefront of political struggle!), recognized the decision of the Jogorku Kenesh of 21-22 November 1995 "On holding a referendum (popular vote) to make changes and additions to the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic on a unified judiciary system" unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, the initiative of the first convocation of a bicameral Parliament was finally realized during the June referendum in 2010 - today we have a single Supreme Court, administering justice in criminal, civil and economic cases, as well as constitutional review.
As a result of the referendum held on February 2, 2003, it was decided to return to a unicameral Jogorku Kenesh beginning in 2005. Why did a bicameral Parliament fail? First, a bicameral Parliament could not survive, because bicameral parliaments usually exist in federal states like Russia, where there are national structures. Kyrgyzstan is a unitary state with an indivisible territory.
Second, expectations for lowering the cost of the parliament were not met either - both chambers had got their own offices, financial and economic services. The cost of maintaining the two-chamber Jogorku Kenesh increased enormously compared to the one-chamber Jogorku Kenesh of 1990-1994.
For example, in 1993, the Office of the Jogorku Kenesh consisted of only 46 full-time units (with 350 Parliament deputies), and all costs of the Jogorku Kenesh that year amounted to 702 thousand soms. In 1994, the Office of the Jogorku Kenesh consisted of 53 men (with 350 Parliament deputies), and the total costs of the Jogorku Kenesh were 4,527.8 soms.
At the end of March 1995, a bicameral parliament began its activities. The Office of the bicameral Jogorku Kenesh with a garage already had 348 full-time units (the Office of the Legislative Assembly of JK - 144, the Office of the Assembly of People’s Representatives of JK - 87, garage - 117); maintenance costs amounted to 40,764.4 soms. It showed that the cost of maintaining the newly established bicameral Jogorku Kenesh immediately increased by 10 times! And this is without taking into account the cost of the deputies themselves (wages, travel costs, etc.).
As for the second convocation of a bicameral parliament (2000), the number of staff of both Chambers of the Jogorku Kenesh together with the Department of Logistics and garage in 2001 was 783 units; the cost (excluding the cost of the deputies) was 131,652.2 soms.
Third, in fact, there were two almost equal parliaments, which became a permanent source of tension in the relationship with the President and the Government.
The experience of the permanent chamber of the Jogorku Kenesh - the Legislative Assembly of two convocations - showed that in the conditions of Kyrgyzstan, the idea of professionalization of the Parliament is premature. Public awareness and the political and legal culture of our society are not yet ripe for modern Euro-American standards of parliamentarianism. The reason for that, in my opinion, was the fact that both convocations of our bicameral Parliament (1995 and 2000) were unable to restructure its work in accordance with the doctrine of separation of powers under the Constitution, and continued to work in the spirit of the Leninist principle of the absolute power of the Soviets, implementing for the most part executive and administrative functions that are not inherent in the parliament.
At the same time, incompetence and indecisiveness of the Government, its latent desire to make oneself safe when making unpopular economic decisions, not to assume full political responsibility for many aspects of social and economic reform, particularly on the issues of privatization of state property, led to the fact that the Chambers of the Jogorku Kenesh, especially the Legislative Assembly, eventually turned into a "parallel government", by assuming with the tacit consent of the Government a lot of powers unusual for a legislative body. Incidentally, it should be noted that some of those regulations are still in force today.
All of this violated an already shaky balance in the relations between the legislative and executive branches of power and by 2002, it complicated the interaction between the Parliament and government, as well as the President. As a result, in late 2002, the Presidential Administration decided to return to a unicameral Parliament in 2005.
Kyrgyzstan established a parliamentary government: now it must create a multiparty political system
On June 27, 2010, our country adopted a fundamentally new Basic Law that, according to the initiators, established a parliamentary regime (although in fact it should have been called "pseudo-parliamentary”). But a couple of months later, the society had a question: will the new Constitution be a value platform of nation-building for decades to come and will it bring stability and strength of the State on the eve of the parliamentary election scheduled for October 10, 2010? Discussion on the future of the new political system had begun. Certain socio-political forces in the country predicted that this new form of governance meant nothing but the transition from presidential stability to parliamentary confusion. They also said that if they had won the parliamentary election, they would have begun the process of possible return to the presidential form of government. Those days in Ukraine (October 1, 2010), the Party of Regions of the President Viktor Yanukovych abolished the constitutional reform of 2004 with the help of the Constitutional Court. If you remember the constitutional reform of 2004 established a parliamentary system in Ukraine. As you know, a "positive" example can be contagious.
In this regard, one might assume that the "revolutionaries", who managed to remain in power for a certain period of time, will make all efforts to "cement" the parliamentary regime through passing appropriate laws to implement constitutional provisions. But everything turned out according to well-known adage: "we tried our best - you know the rest".
The fact is that the "revolutionaries in power," as well as the newly formed parliament of the 5th convocation, could not understand the need for speedy development of a turn-based strategy for implementing the June constitutional reform, as Kyrgyzstan took a great risk by establishing a parliamentary system in a society, in which there is virtually no full-fledged and well-developed party system and low legal and political culture. The time for strengthening that new form of government (from December 2010) was wasted. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that people actually remained indifferent to the new form of government, and when during the first months of work of the government and the Jogorku Kenesh all saw firsthand the "charm" of parliamentarism, people got disappointed with it.
As a result, a year later the debate about the consistency of the parliamentary form unfolded once again during the presidential campaign: all the major candidates for the post of the head of the state called for a new constitutional reform designed to strengthen presidential powers. Experience tells us that soon we will see a new cycle of confrontation between the President and the Jogorku Kenesh for powers, for the right to determine personnel policy, as well as the main directions of domestic and foreign policies.
What should we do to strengthen parliamentary government? I would like to dwell on the possibilities offered by the current Constitution for the development and improvement of state-building. I will outline only three main positions.
First. The process of filling the new constitutional provisions with real content must begin with reformatting the political system of the state. This implies formation of new political conditions in Kyrgyzstan that could create real conditions for the strengthening of the country's parliamentary system: creation of a legal framework for real role of political parties in the political life of society, strengthening the role of parties in the political process, and creating a modern system of national political parties, focused on the interests of society and the state. Second is the improvement in the organization of public authority and the creation of a new model of governance. Third is reforming the Jogorku Kenesh.
Any viable political system requires a foundation, on which later all political institutions are built. These institutions ensure political and economic development. The stronger the foundation is, the more complex and effective policy design the country can afford. For example, in the U.S. the foundation of the political system is a rigid two-party model, which establishes the institutional role of the political elite and provides stability in key policy decisions. This becomes especially apparent, when you look at virtually identical programs of two major American parties. Thus, anyone with political ambitions is forced to accept a certain set of basic ideological principles. This guarantees maintenance of the fundamental elements of U.S. policy, regardless of the change of administrations in the White House.
The European party system is much milder than the U.S. one, but formal state institutions and bureaucracy here are much more important. In the UK and Germany, all Ministers belong to certain political parties, and their permanent deputies are non-party members and do not change even if an opposition party comes to power. In fact, non-partisan European bureaucracy acts as a guarantor of the continuity of policies that eludes simple changes in the political preferences of voters.
International practice shows that the balancing of the relationship of society and power structures and stability of social and state structure is the most important duty of political parties. In the countries with established multiparty systems, people are not afraid of left or right-wing extremism, ochlocracy, authoritarian or totalitarian inclinations in society. The parties themselves are a living organism. They are constantly changing, gaining strength or weakening, pulsing, flowing into one another, break up, but their practical experience (positive or negative) guards the state against errors. Even when they are in the opposition, they are searching for the best ways to develop the country.
As for Kyrgyzstan, it should be noted that by the early 1990s, the party political system component had been discredited. The existence of parties in the 1990s was a purely decorative phenomenon. Probably, the communist period and the dominance of the Communist Party had beaten off all respect for a political party as a guide. The parties were so greatly discredited that they did not actually participate in real politics. At the beginning of building an independent Kyrgyz state, official policy was aimed directly at the exclusion of parties from the political process. The Constitution of 1993 read that it was not permitted to merge government and party institutions in the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as subordination of government activities to party programs and decisions. Thus, there was a policy of non-partization of political life. The reduced civic engagement in politics also resulted from the general trend towards non-partization.
However, over time, the reverse side of this policy became more and more clear. Enhancing the role of single-mandate deputies, along with the existence of a bicameral Jogorku Kenesh, could lead to political strengthening of the regions, and in the future - to the threat of regional separatism. For these and many other reasons, first of all, under the "influence" of the OSCE, UNDP and other international financial institutions, demanding political reform in the late 1990s, the government chose a policy of increasing the role of political parties in the socio-political life of the country. As a result, in June 1999, the law "On political parties” was adopted. But by the early 2000s, the role of parties was limited only to giving the appearance of features of legitimacy and democratic electoral processes. Political parties were the only possible way to participate in parliamentary elections, and for party leaders to remain on the political horizon.
The need for a strategy of party building
The new Kyrgyz Constitution provides for an opportunity to build an integral multiparty political system and take a course on partization of the socio-political life of the country and giving the parties real political significance.
This requires a sensible policy of the authorities in this field. With the current socio-political situation in Kyrgyzstan, there is a need for speedy implementation of a strategy of party building. The overall objective of the strategy is to make sense of the existence of a multiparty political system and make it more predictable and stable. The number of parties is not an indicator of multi-party system development and, consequently, of the level of political culture in general. The large number of existing political parties in Kyrgyzstan today is an illusory phenomenon: if we look more carefully at it, we must admit the inadequacy and law quality of the existing party system.
Today political parties only imitate the political process. For example, important socio-political developments in recent years, culminating in the parliamentary elections in December 2007 and October 2010, presidential elections in July 2009 and October 2011, were in fact not a struggle between political parties but a struggle between representatives of regional elites. The main forces of such collisions were not political parties, but coalitions of regional elites. The majority of the existing parties have a “chief-led” image, which contradicts the very meaning of the party. These parties have become a sump for ex-officials who have lost their political positions but are eager to return to real politics, considering their party status as a temporary phenomenon. The program component of all parties is reduced to boring good wishes; the parties do not fulfill their social mission. The current political parties are not able to develop and offer an ideology of national development to the public, concrete proposals to combat political extremism, national apathy, indifference and unbelief in one’s own state, and they do not carry out systematic work with young people.
To make a parliamentary system work, the authorities must take urgent measures to bring real political parties to the political life, so that "ghost-parties" turn into functioning political mechanisms. One element of political system reform should be the introduction of fixed membership in political parties and of a lower threshold of the number of party members required for registration, with the obligatory introduction of a control mechanism on the part of the public authority. What is the sense in control over the number of party members?
This measure should be a filter against short-term populist and electoral projects. A statutory bottom bracket, for example, 10 thousand registered members, will create a barrier to pseudo-party structures that include no real party members and voters, but commercial or political people, focusing exclusively on getting seats in the Parliament. Political strategy phantoms that exist only during the election period and die soon after the end of the campaign have never been and cannot become a mainstay of the political system of the state. On the contrary, their existence only harms the system.
The letter and spirit of the new Constitution literally require the parties to continually participate in political life. Unfortunately, we can see that most parties have not yet grasped this challenge - they do not participate in public policy debates, they do not promote their own anti-crisis programs, they do not announce their position on important and topical issues of public life, etc. You cannot create a party and do nothing. It is impossible to remain a political party without performing daily work functions of the party. Only the constant political work of party structures will help the party keep its members and strengthen their position in society. Otherwise, if the party works only for participation in parliamentary elections or for giving a status to several of its leaders, such a party is unable to maintain the necessary number of members and, eventually, ceases to be a party.
In order to implement new constitutional provisions, setting forth the basis for a new political system in Kyrgyzstan, i.e. to reform the political system, first it is necessary to develop and adopt the following fundamental laws: "On political parties in the Kyrgyz Republic" (the current Law was adopted in June 1999 and is obsolete today) and "On guarantees of the opposition activity in the Kyrgyz Republic". A new law on political parties will support the country's sensible policy of building a multi-party system.
Political parties with claims to power should be nation-wide associations of citizens, i.e. their activities should cover the entire country, and they cannot be mono-national. It is suggested that we fix in law the following requirements for the establishment of political parties: a political party shall have its territorial offices; membership in political parties should be fixed; a political party shall consist of not less than, say, 10 thousand registered members; there should be a governmental body to control the number of members in parties. Also, great attention should be paid to ensuring transparency in the financing of political parties: sources of financing political parties must be specified; funding principles - rule of law, openness, transparency, availability to party members, the public and the competent governmental authorities of information on financing; goal-oriented use of funds; the introduction of annual financial accountability of political parties. This should include the introduction of public funding of political parties that received seats in the Parliament. The Law must also establish a mechanism for effective control by fiscal authorities over funding of political parties - do not forget about the possibility of funding political parties by foreign states and their citizens, as well as by foreign extremist organizations. Accordingly, the Law must specify a mechanism of accountability for political parties violating the Constitution and laws of the country.
I believe that we need a law that guarantees opposition activity. The opposition is the most important instrument of self-regulation of any society. Unfortunately, our society in fact has equated opposition activity almost to treason, and any criticism toward the authorities leads to harsh criticism. Intolerance of dissent is a long-standing and serious problem of our legal and political culture. It came to us from the Soviet political culture, which professed a principle of "those who are not with us are against us". We must move toward a normal attitude towards the presence of views of citizens, which are different from the opinion of the authorities. Any intelligent criticism is good for decision makers, especially for heads of government agencies. Indeed, criticism helps them consider all possible options and nuances and often prevent errors. The opposition is just there to notice and highlight all the mistakes of the government.
What will the adoption of such a law bring to society?
First, the new opposition will exist within the legal framework. Political parties that have made a decision to join the opposition will be permitted to engage in legal opposition activities; and they must be included on the register of the opposition parties, which an authorized state body will be responsible for. All their opposition activities should be carried out in accordance with the requirements written down in the Law. A political party will be held accountable for breaking the law - elimination of the party according to a relevant decision of the court.
The security of the state is currently suffering due to lack of statutory requirements for opposition activities, as part of the radical opposition may link up with the clandestine activities of extremist religious organizations, which must be prevented. Furthermore, the law should establish safeguards against political persecution of citizen-members of an opposition party.
Second, such a law will direct the activities of political parties in the implementation of their statutory tasks, as required by law. A fundamental question has long been topical in Kyrgyzstan: Should the existing opposition be re-formatted into a more constructive force, or should we create a new systematic opposition that would lead to an equal dialogue with the authorities in the walls of the Jogorku Kenesh and in other areas, but not in the streets. The opposition must finally realize that they should not fight with the state as such, but with the government or the parliament, if the latter carry out domestic and foreign policies that do not meet the interests of citizens, society and the state.
The current political system is doomed. It will either lose the ability to produce positive changes and will be destroyed, or it will be able to evolve, reducing the degree of tension in society. The sooner the second option happens, all the better for society and the state. The proposed concept of reforming the political system is a somewhat artificial way of stimulating the activities of the parties. This is justified by the fact that today we are trying to build a real political life on a party basis, without any camouflage patterns and extremist underground, and without one-day parties. Such an updated party-based political system must have only massive national parties, which will be ready to meet the requirements of the new Constitution.
Do not make the same mistake: the reform of the Jogorku Kenesh
Today's society is not enthusiastic about the work of the Jogorku Kenesh. One year since the new convocation of the Jogorku Kenesh suggests that there should be institutional changes designed to improve the effectiveness of our Parliament and to promote further development of the legislative branch and parliamentarism. Leaders of the Jogorku Kenesh must reform the Parliament on the basis of its present multi-party character, get rid of inappropriate executive and administrative functions and micromanagement of executive power.
The main objective of this reform is creating a balance between the legislative and executive branches. The idea of the permanent professional parliament, implemented in 1995, was wrong. It was assumed that if MPS were daily engaged in legislative activities, the effectiveness of parliamentary work and the quality of laws would improve. In fact, this mode of operation of the Legislative Assembly in the first two-chamber Parliament in 1995-2004, and then the Jogorku Kenesh in 2005-2007, led to the fact that the Parliament actually turned into a "parallel government", competing with the President and the government. Under the new Constitution, the Parliament would only deal with those issues that are inherent in the powers of parliament - the adoption of laws, mainly driven by the government, and control over the budget execution and implementation of laws. The laws must establish a system of checks and balances against the autocratic aspirations of the Parliament in its relations with other branches of government.
The work mode of the Jogorku Kenesh must be changed, too. Experience has shown that the mode of operation of the current Jogorku Kenesh does not allow quality bills to be passed. Since the plenary sessions are held twice a week, the Office of the Jogorku Kenesh and committees are forced to issue bills in a hurry, in order not to disrupt the plenary sessions.
I propose to return to the sessional order of the Jogorku Kenesh’s activity, as the editors of the 1993 Constitution established it. Jogorku Kenesh sessions should be held not less than two times during the period, set by the Constitution (e.g. once per quarter). Between the sessions the Office of the Jogorku Kenesh and the chairmen of the committees will prepare questions for the next session.
How can we change the work mode of Jogorku Kenesh? In accordance with Article 77 of the new Constitution, sessions of the Jogorku Kenesh take the form of meetings and are held from the first working day of September to the last working day of June of the following year. Under this constitutional provision, it is possible to identify in the regulations of the Jogorku Kenesh the number of the plenary sessions. For example, the Parliament could, without any damage to the law-making activities, hold plenary meetings one week every 3-4 months.
Returning to Parliament’s session-by-session activities will enhance the independence of the Government and will allow it directly deal with economic problems. The system where members of the government almost daily come to the Parliament, in order to participate in the work of committees and factions, in the plenary meetings of the Jogorku Kenesh, constantly reporting on its work and listening to criticism, often unfounded, much reduces the efficiency of both the government and of the Jogorku Kenesh.
And most importantly, the transition to a parliamentary sessional system of work will ease the burden on the budget concerning the maintenance of the Jogorku Kenesh, because no more than 25-30 members will work on a permanent basis (the Speaker and his deputies, chairmen of committees and their deputies, leaders of the factions). There will also be a reduction of the Office of the Jogorku Kenesh, which will reduce the cost of transport services for deputies, etc. Preliminary calculations show that in the case of Jogorku Kenesh’s transition to session mode, budget savings would annually be approximately 500 million soms.
Such an approach on the part of the Jogorku Kenesh of the 5th convocation will symbolize the realization of the concept "the state must live within available means", which in the current difficult economic conditions should be an immutable rule of the organization and activities of state and local authorities, and in general the whole state apparatus.